Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Bad Kitty. Why are Cats Evil? by L. A. Kelley


Bad Kitty


Halloween is in a few days, but I’ve been seeing black cat decorations for over a month. They’re ubiquitous with Halloween as witches’ familiars, but what’s the deal with cats? How did something so cute and fuzzy get such a sketchy reputation. It wasn’t always the case.

 Cats in myth

Cats have been part of humans’ lives for a long time. The earliest mythological symbolism of animal deities occurred as long ago as Upper Paleolithic, or Old Stone Age, a period extending from 35,000 to 8300 BC. The oldest known animal-shaped sculpture is a lion-headed, human-bodied figurine known as Löwenmensch, found in Hohlenstein Stadel cave in Germany. The statue dates from about 32,000 BC and was carved from mammoth ivory using a flint stone knife. In these early religions, lion-headed figurines have been found that are believed to have played a prominent role in spiritualism and not associated with evil shenanigans. Ancient legends from Thailand, Burma, and other Asian countries, have cats transporting the souls of monks or royalty to heaven after death.

In Egypt, Bast or Bastet first appeared as a fierce lioness in the third millennium BCE, but after the domestication of the cat around 1500 BCE quickly morphed into a benign cat goddess, taking care of the family, house, and home. The Egyptian word for cat was ‘miu’ which sound like the noise a cat makes and I think is absolutely adorable. Cats shown on tomb walls and funerary stelae often depict them as beloved pets, seated by their owners’ chairs. According to Herodotus, when a cat died by a natural death, those who dwelled in the house shaved their eyebrows, which is just plain weird. Some cats were even mummified and afforded special burials with elaborately carved sarcophagi inscribed with their name. Even in the afterlife, an Egyptian wanted his or her kitty near.

One reasons why cats have a mystical connection may be because they are the only wild animal that domesticated themselves. As humans moved from the lives of hunter-gatherers to farm-based existence, cooperation with humans proved to be a mutually beneficial partnership. Cats got a reliable source of prey hunting vermin that fed on grain and humans got effortless pest control.

So why the bad rap?

Blame the Christians. They wanted to do away with anything that smacked of pagan worship so cat gods were out, even if they were helpful. As Christianity spread from the Middle East, so did myths surrounding cats. By the time the Middle Ages rolled around, cats got the reputation of sinister beasts with powers similar to witches and warlocks, obviously in cahoots with Satan. It was believed a cat’s bite was poisonous, as was its flesh, and a person who inhaled a cat’s breath would be infected with tuberculosis. Also, they could make beer go sour if you ticked them off. Yeah, that’s weird, too.

Cats can also make you sneeze. Cat allergens are twice as common as dog allergens. In the 14th century, bubonic plague swept the European continent. In some regions, it killed sixty percent of the population. Since there was no understanding of sickness, any great evil was assumed to be the work of the devil, and the belief spread the plague was brought on by his feline minions. Thousands were killed, but cats got their revenge since the real culprit was fleas that feasted on rats and without cats to curb the rat population, the disease ravaged human populations.

Modern Creepy Cats

Since the Middle Ages, the cat’s reputation continued to improve until Hollywood got their paws on it to keep the spooky reputation alive. Cats serve as the primary source of terror in more than thirty films, from 1934’s The Black Cat to the 2019 adaptation of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. There’s even a subgenre in movies known as the Lewton Bus, Cat Scare, or the Spring-Loaded Cat. This is where a cat jumps out of nowhere scaring the bejesus out of a poor schlub. It’s so common that it’s now a horror parody. (Check out “It’s Just a Cat” on YouTube )

So What’s the Deal with Cats?

They can be kind of scary. They’re fierce hunters, a bit standoffish, see in the dark, their eyes glow and they’re not obsequious like dogs. They won’t slobber all over you in paroxysms of delight when you walk in the door. You might get a little ankle rub, but all they’re really doing is marking you as their territory with the scent glands in their cheeks. They own you and they know it. Be nice or they’ll kill you in your sleep.

L. A. Kelley writes science fiction and fantasy adventures with humor, romance, and a touch of sass. Don't tick her off or your beer will sour.





Nightingale said...

I'm a cat person. When I had my horse farm, I was owned by a legion of them. There were the true barn cats who did supposedly deinfest the barn, but were also fed daily and watered. Then there were the house kitties. At one time, I had 3 but I now admit that was too many. I don't have a pet today, but if I did it would be a big, fluffy long-haired marmalade male kitty. In fact, I might start my search of the shelters today! Thanks for the inspiration!

Diane Burton said...

Very interesting post. Ours was never a cat family. Hubs and Son were both allergic. Call us Dog People. LOL

Maureen said...

Love this post- shaving your eyebrows? Umm...nope, lol.
We always had cats when I was growing up, but my husband is allergic so no cats for us.

Nancy Gideon said...

I've always been a cat person and currently co-hab with three of the haughty creatures. Unlike their needy slobbery other pet, the dog, they are fastidious and standoffish but somehow always end up in my bed when I'm reading at night. They are my morning alarm and built in electric blanket and I don't know what I'd do without them.

Mary Morgan said...

Haha! I laughed at this statement: "They won’t slobber all over you in paroxysms of delight when you walk in the door." My parents had a cat (Oliver) who would be so excited to see me that he drooled. He'd sit there and I'd have to wipe his mouth for him. Yet he only did it with women. ;) Great post!

Jessica E. Subject said...

I love cats, and used to have a black cat. We don't have any now, as my husband and son are allergic, but my daughter has promised that I will have lots of grand-kitties. LOL

Marilyn Barr said...

Love this post - and my black cats, Pepper and Tzatziki, do too. Cats are the sweetest if you obey their boundaries, lol.